When Friday rolls around each week during the school year, many parents face the same situation. The kids groan, complain about getting out of bed, and struggle to get through the morning routine. Getting to school on-time or making it out for the bus is a constant battle. To avoid this issue, many school districts have considered shifting to a 4-day school week.
The benefits of going to a 4-day week for schooling is that it offers teachers and students an additional day for rest every week. More rest then equates to dealing with less stress over the course of a school year. Students feel less pressure because they have more time to study at their own pace at home, especially in the later grades.
Shifting to this schedule does have certain disadvantages, especially for working parents. For the parents of younger students, an additional full day of daycare may need to be scheduled every week instead of a partial day. This leads to added costs that some families, living paycheck to paycheck, may not be able to afford.
Here are some additional key points to think about when looking at the pros and cons of a 4-day school week.
What Are the Pros of a 4 Day School Week?
1. It may reduce the number of discipline referrals for students.
The Chattooga County School District in Georgia shifted to a 4-day school week. Over the course of their first year on this new schedule, they reported that the frequency of discipline referrals for their students dropped by 73%. Their students were more focused because they were more rested, which equated to fewer classroom disruptions.
2. It may improve overall student attendance.
The Melstone School District in Montana also shifted to a 4-day school week. Over the course of a 2-year period on this alternative schedule, they reported up to a 20% increase in student attendance. There were also reduced sick days requested by their teaching staff. The Chattooga County School District reported similar results from their trial with this schedule as well.
3. Student performance may improve with a 4-day school week.
The Peach County School District in Georgia saw that their graduation rates slowly increased year after year when they switched to a 4-day school week. The Oakridge School District in Oregon reported that their test scores improved when they shifted to this alternative schedule as well.
4. There are potential reductions in the financial costs of running a school district.
Because school buses are only running 4 days per week instead of 5 days, there is the potential of reducing transportation costs by up to 20% by shifting the schedule. There are potential savings to food programs and other important areas of infrastructure because the school district is closed 1 additional day each week. For school districts struggling with funding issues, the potential savings here could save the budget.
5. Staff recruitment is easier with the 4-day school week for school districts.
In New Mexico, 18 of the state’s 89 school districts are currently using this alternative schedule. The districts on the 4-day school week are finding it easier to recruit for the staff they need because they offer the prospect of a 3-day weekend during the school year. That additional day can also be used for staff development time instead of taking away a school day to do so. And the school districts in the state have stable student achievement levels on their standardized tests.
6. Sports schedules are easier to manage.
Some school districts shifted to a 4-day week not because of financial needs, but others did so to make it easier to schedule sporting events or after-school activities. Weekend sporting events make it easier to get students to them, especially when they are an away event, because the school day doesn’t interfere on a Friday. Rural school districts find the greatest benefit in this area.
What Are the Cons of a 4 Day School Week?
1. It creates a long school day for students.
The requirements for total education time do not change just because a school district goes to a 4-day school week. For the Cove School District in Eastern Oregon, the school day begins at 8am and doesn’t end until 4pm. After-school activities begin at that point, which means some students don’t make it back home until 8pm that night. After 12 hours of being away from home, students struggle to find time to study during the 4-day school week.
2. It changes the holiday schedules for the school district.
Students in a 4-day school week are packing 180 days into a condensed 145-day schedule. This means students in a district with this alternative schedule get out later for the holidays than students on the traditional Monday-Friday schedule. It also means that certain holiday vacations, such as Thanksgiving, are extended to a full week, and that can be a scheduling concern for many families.
3. Most parents work a 5-day schedule and struggle to adapt to a 4-day school schedule.
Most parents have employment which requires them to be present for 8 hours per day, 5 days per week. Students attending a 4-day school schedule may have requirements for their education that fall outside of the normal work schedule for their parents. This creates challenges for families that range from transportation to daycare and could make it difficult for parents to be fully involved with their child’s education.
4. Many school districts still operate Monday-Friday, even on a 4-day week.
The school districts may operate classes Monday-Thursday on a 4-day week (or Tuesday-Friday in some instances), but they are still operational from an administrative standpoint on the off-day. Programs like student tutoring or sports, teacher/parent meetings, staff development, and building maintenance still happen on the fifth day, which negates many of the cost-savings opportunities that the 4-day schedule appears to offer.
5. It is a program for mostly rural and small school districts.
In Colorado, 31 of the state’s 176 school districts are currently using a 4-day school week. These school districts are typically in isolated regions, are rural, and have a student body that is fewer than 500 students. The challenges of implementing such a schedule for parents, administrators, and even some teachers have caused some Colorado school districts to return to the traditional schedule instead of the alternative 4-day schedule. Many schools are, in fact, offering year-round services now to accommodate the changing needs of their communities.
6. Even the cost savings of a total shift to a 4-day schedule may be minimal.
Granby School District in Colorado shifted to a 4-day schedule for their 1,100 students. Out of a budget of $5.5 million, they saved $206,000.
The pros and cons of a 4-day school week offer many challenges. There are positive outcomes that may occur, but there are negative outcomes that must also be managed. Each community has unique needs which must be met, so there is the possibility of a 4-day week being useful to some districts, but not others. The decision to implement such a schedule must therefore be handled at the local level.